Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Power Shift 2007

Power Shift 2007, the first-ever national youth summit to solve the climate crisis.

HT Jesse Jenkins at

This weekend, Nov 2nd-5th, thousands of students and youth will come together in D.C. for Power Shift.  With all 50 states represented, youth will engage on solutions to global warming and how to put solutions into practice. Registration for Power Shift has topped the 5,000 mark with a full day to go before registration closes, making Power Shift the largest summit of climate activists ever (as far as we know). 
But Power Shift is more than just a major event. It’s about starting a movement.  To that end, Power Shift’s agenda includes issue briefings from leading scientists and policy experts, dozens of training sessions, an opportunities fair, and additional networking opportunities, all designed to connect young leaders and use their collective experience to focus action on America’s greener, more prosperous future.
Thousands of Power Shift participants will also attend the Nov. 5 Lobby Day to meet with senators and representatives and their staff to promote the “1Sky” Climate Initiative and send a clear signal to Congress that today’s youth won’t accept compromises with their future.
Power Shift is also the largest event taking part in the nationwide Step It Up day of action on November 3rd.  At the Lobby Day, Power Shift participants will take photos and stories from Step it Up events back in their home districts with them into the offices of their senators and representatives.
More information, agenda and registration for Power Shift are available at www.powershift07.org and information on Energy Action Coalition is available at www.energyaction.net.  You can find a news blurb and links to media and blog coverage of Power Shift and the youth climate movement here.

October 30, 2007 in Climate Change | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Kids most at risk from global warming impacts

Children are especially vulnerable to the adverse health effects of global warming according to a report released Monday at the American Academy of Pediatrics annual conference:  "Direct health impacts from global warming include injury and death from more frequent extreme weather events, such as hurricanes and tornados. For children, this can mean post-traumatic stress, loss of caregivers, disrupted education and displacement. Increased climate-sensitive infectious diseases, air pollution-related illness, and heat-related illness and fatalities also are expected....As the climate changes, the earth’s geography also will change, leading to a host of health risks for kids. Disruptions in the availability of food and water and the displacement of coastal populations can cause malnutrition, vitamin deficiencies and waterborne illness...Within all of these categories, children have increased vulnerability compared with other groups."  The health dangers associated with climate change affecting children include a projected increase in vector-borne illnesses, such as infestation of malaria bearing mosquitoes; increased incidence of asthma and respiratory illnesses; more heat-related deaths; food shortages caused by unchecked global warming; and dramatically reduced availability of fresh water in regions such as the US west coast. 
AAP technical report
AAP policy statement on global warming and children's health

October 30, 2007 in Climate Change | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, October 26, 2007

British Petroleum agrees to pay $70 million USD for environmental crimes

Acting Attorney General Peter D. Keisler announced yesterday that the energy company British Petroleum (BP) has agreed to pay approximately 70 million dollars in fines and restitution for environmental crimes. This includes a criminal fine of $50 million for Clean Air Act violations resulting from an explosion at BP's Texas City refinery in 2005.

"This is the largest fine ever assessed to a single entity under the Clean Air Act. And this is the first criminal prosecution under a section of the Act specifically created to prevent accidental releases that result in death of serious injury," said Keisler.

BP has also agreed to pay a $12 million criminal fine, $4 million in community service payments, and $4 million in criminal restitution for Clean Water Act violations associated with pipeline leaks of crude oil in Alaska. Additionally, BP agreed to three years of probation for the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act violations.

"BP committed serious environmental crimes in our two largest states, with terrible consequences for people and the environment" said Granta Nakayama, EPA’s Assistant Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. "Today's agreement sends a message that these types of crimes will be prosecuted."

The fines are part of BP's plea agreement to pay more than $373 million for environmental crimes, fraud and market manipulation. BP and several of its employees were charged by an indictment issued by a federal grand jury in the Northern District of Illinois with conspiracy to manipulate the price of propane in 2004, wire fraud, and several violations of the Commodity Exchange Act. BP will pay $303 million in restitution and criminal and civil fines for these crimes under the terms of a  deferred prosecution agreement.

Read the Department of Justice's press release.

October 26, 2007 in Air Quality, Cases, Energy, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, Water Quality | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Kansas denies air quality permit for expansion of coal-fired power plant over climate change concerns

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment has denied an air quality permit for the expansion of a coal-fired power plant because the expansion would cause a significant increase in carbon dioxide emissions. One commentator suggested that this may be the first instance where expansion of a power plant has been denied solely because of climate change concerns.

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October 23, 2007 in Air Quality, Climate Change, Energy | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Ruth Norton Smith (Nov 27, 1921 - Oct 14, 2007)

Ruth Norton Smith died peacefully in Boulder, Colorado  on Sunday, October 14, 2007 after enjoying her full measure of life. 

Ruth was born in Oklahoma on November 27, 1921 in a tent in Oklahoma.  She was raised during the Depression years, moving frequently as her family farmed and followed the tunneling, mining, and other work available to her father.  Ultimately, her family settled in southern California.  There Ruth met the love of her life, Herbert Frank Smith, a carpenter and union organizer, whom she married on June 4, 1941. 

In WW II, while her husband served in the Navy in the South Pacific, Ruth became a Rosie the Riveter, building bombers, and then joined the Women’s Army Corps, serving as a nurse.  After the war, they settled in the Los Angeles area, where she became a real estate broker and the mom of two children, Greg in 1948 and Susan in 1953.

In 1955, her family moved to Colorado where she worked side by side with her husband to build two of the largest home-building companies in Colorado, Happy Homes and Fireside Homes, and a prominent real estate firm.  When she left real estate and home-building in the late 1960s, Ruth became a political and market researcher for Research Services, Inc. and later became a researcher for the U.S. Census Bureau, from which she retired in 1989.

Ruth was a life-long Democratic political activist with a passion for peace, civil rights, and all aspects of social justice.  She served in every capacity: running political campaigns, serving as a precinct committee woman, county, congressional district, and state delegate, pollwatcher, and election judge.  She worked with Metro Denver Fair Housing center as a realtor, helping the first African-American families in Jefferson County to find housing.  She volunteered with youth mentoring programs in Four Points and with Metro Denver Urban Coalition, Another Mother for Peace, Meals on Wheels, and countless other organizations. 

Ruth was too busy with her family, volunteer work and career for many hobbies.  She thrived on the stimulating conversations born by inviting friends and guests from all over the world and from every walk of life to dinner.  She also found great pleasure in reading, traveling and attending theatre and opera performances.

Ruth was a warm, intelligent, extroverted vibrant woman who loved and was loved by virtually everyone she met.   Her loss will be sorely missed by the many friends and family she has left behind, including her sister Lorene, her brother Fred, her son Greg, her daughter Susan, and her grandchildren Clint Smith, Brent Smith, Nathanial Smith-Tripp and Sarah Smith-Tripp.  Her family and friends will gather at Mt. Vernon Country Club on Sunday, October 21, 2007 at 10:30 am for a celebration of her life.  The family requests that no flowers be sent and suggests donations to Meals on Wheel or a charity of your choice.

October 18, 2007 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, Physical Science, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Blog Action Day

Yesterday was the inaugural Blog Action Day -- encouraging every blogger to post on global warming and the environment.  For those who missed yesterday, here's a link where you can register to receive information about next year's event.  Blog Action Day registration.  Here's some of the action from yesterday from outside the environmental blog universe:

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October 16, 2007 in Climate Change | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Thank you to Read/Write Web

Oil spikes again

Oil futures hit a new record $88 a barrel yesterday.  The spike is attributed to concern about possible disruptions in Middle Eastern crude supplies and that domestic supplies are insufficient to meet demand during the fourth quarter. 

October 16, 2007 in Energy | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Reactions to the Nobel Peace Prize Award

This morning I woke up to the disconcerting editorial in my local newspaper, the Statesman Journal, which had this to say about the Nobel Peace Prize Award to the IPCC and Al Gore: 

Tossup: Al Gore.  He shared this year's Nobel Pace Prize for his efforts to educate people about human-caused climate change.  His commitment is admirable, even if you don't agree with his cause.  However, the Norweigian prize committee certainly has expanded the definition of "peace.

Apparently the august body of the Stateman Journal's editorial board has two objections to awarding Gore the prize: they don't agree with his cause and they don't think it has anything to do with peace.

I won't even comment on the first objection -- that's silly.

As to the second objection, I've done a bit of research on past winners of the Peace prize to explore the contention that the Nobel Committee stretched the definition of peace for Gore's benefit.  I've also looked at the research concerning the implications of climate change for global conflict.

The award to the IPCC and Gore is certainly in line with the Committee's previous Peace prize awards, which have focussed on sustainability as a means to achieve peace.  The Committee rather unsurpisingly believes that creating sustainable environmental, economic, and social conditions within nations reduces international conflict.  Go figure!  Indeed, the Committee has focused recent awards on sustainability efforts.  Two obvious examples are the 2006 Peace prize award to Professor Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank who invented the idea of microcredit and the 2004 Peace prize award to Professor Wangari for her work encouraging tree planting in Africa and cancellation of African debt.  [Their full Nobel biographies can be found below].

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October 13, 2007 in Climate Change | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

What's your question?

The Nobel Laureate site allows visitors to pose a question to any of all of the Nobel laureates.  In honor of the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to the IPCC and Al Gore, I asked "If the U.S. Supreme Court had decided to elect Al Gore President, instead of George Bush, how would the world, particularly human impact on global climate, be different?"  What's your question?  Ask a Nobel Laureate

October 13, 2007 in Climate Change | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, October 12, 2007

The 2007 Nobel Peace Prize goes to...

According to a press release issued today by the Norwegian Nobel Committee, the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize "is to be shared, in two equal parts, between the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and Albert Arnold (Al) Gore Jr. for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change."   The full text of the announcement can be found below.

Watch the award announcement on YouTube

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October 12, 2007 in Climate Change, International | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Monday, October 8, 2007

Making golf a bit greener

All of us who play golf, even if we seldom hit the green, welcome the greening of the greens reported by the Economist:

LAST summer the big three American automakers, General Motors, Ford and Chrysler, who have all watched their market shares diminish under the pressure of foreign competition, suffered yet another embarrassment at the hands of Toyota. Paul W. Smith, who hosts a radio show in Detroit, passed over the hometown companies and asked Toyota to sponsor his annual golf tournament. Ten years ago, asking a foreign company to host a local event would have been unthinkable.

AFPA green sort of brown

A decade ago it would have been similarly unthinkable for a company like Toyota, which adheres to a “global earth charter that promotes environmental responsibility throughout the entire company,” to sponsor an event on one of America’s often over-watered, over-treated golf courses. But like the hybrid vehicles Toyota now produces, golf is getting greener.

While some American courses are in cool-humid climate zones similar to that of Scotland, the ancestral home of the modern game, many are not. The Detroit metropolitan area is the tenth largest in the United States and its amenable climate sustains 50 courses and 4.4m residents. By comparison, the Phoenix metropolitan region is the nation’s thirteenth largest, and it already boasts more than 75 blankets of lush fairways laid out on the desert sands. The booming greater Las Vegas area has more than 60 courses for less than 1.8m residents.

These courses have increased property values and brought more tourist dollars to the Southwest, but they also consume immense amounts of ever-scarcer potable water. During the summer of 2002, the third-hottest year on record, the city council of Santa Fe, New Mexico threatened to sue Las Campanas, a luxury golf and residential development, which during the height of the summer drought was consuming 1.8m gallons of water a day, ten percent of the city’s daily supply.

Some courses in dry regions have begun using more efficient irrigation systems and untreated effluent water to reduce their strain on municipal supplies, but water remains scarce. Dennis Lyon, the manager of the Denver suburb of Aurora’s municipal golf courses, has placed posters on all his courses that read, “Brown may not be beautiful to some, but an additional 40 yards roll off the tee can be a beautiful thing.”

But keeping those fairways green requires more than just water. Beyond Pesticides, an environmental advocacy group opposed to pesticide use, calls golf courses “the most chemically treated land areas in the United States, second only to fruit orchards.” Pesticides, especially older broad-spectrum, long-residual concoctions, can wreak havoc on sensitive native plants and animals.

Runoff from fertilisers can lead to algal blooms that cause dissolved oxygen levels to drop to suffocatingly low levels, strangling aquatic life. Courses in humid climates can avoid both of these problems by using wild, drought-resistant grasses that reduce the need for both irrigation and chemical treatments.

More effective organic fertilisers have led some premier courses, such as the Plantation Course in Kapalua, Hawaii on the island of Maui (which hosts the PGA Tour Mercedes Championship), to drastically reduce chemical treatment, while about a dozen courses have gone entirely organic.

In response to these trends, the Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA) and the US Golf Association (USGA) have collaborated with Audubon International to establish an environmental-certification program, which rewards golf courses with free publicity if they commit to conserve water, reduce pesticide use, and create wildlife conservation plans for the approximately 70% of course land which is not used for play.

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October 8, 2007 in Sustainability | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, October 4, 2007

A Modest Proposal

As my Climate Change and Energy class was talking on Tuesday, I floated a modest proposal. 

Cap and trade CO2 emissions at existing power plants and other industrial consumers of fossil fuels to meet the 80% decrease from 1990 level by 2050 goal, but also put in place a little command and control regulation.  With respect to new coal-fired (and I suppose natural gas) plants, impose a uniform, national technology-based performance standard under the Clean Air Act requiring new plant carbon dioxide emissions to be equal to or less than the emissions from IGCC with carbon sequestration and storage [i.e. roughly zero].  To assure a level playing field, impose a ban on licensing of any new nuclear power plant unless and until there are fully permitted, environmentally safe locations for permanent storage of all nuclear waste produced from existing plants and the plant to be licensed.   This would assure that every new power plant built be roughly carbon neutral and more environmentally benign.

While arguably burdensome NSPS and NSR requirements for new power plants  previously created strong incentives for utilities and others to continue to use old plants, retool them, and game applicability thresholds set on modification/reconstruction, those incentives would be substantially reduced if existing plants faced a relatively steep CO2 phase-down requirement.

So what's wrong with a little command & control?  It would certainly create strong incentives for the power industry to install IGCC or develop alternative technologies, and hasten the establishment of CSS technology and sites.  From what I read, it is technically feasible to require IGCC and CSS.  We have plentiful coal resources.  We could share any clean coal and nuclear waste storage technological developments fostered by these requirements with other countries which undoubtedly will be using more coal and nuclear.

And....the cost per ton of carbon dioxide emissions avoided is likely to be much less than that achieved through ethanol, biodiesel, and hybrid transportation technologies.  So start here now!  Besides, if we can get clean electricity, then the electric car may rise from the dead  and the production of hydrogen for transportation may become economically feasible.

What do you think???

October 4, 2007 in Agriculture, Air Quality, Climate Change, Economics, Energy, Governance/Management, Law, Legislation, Sustainability, US | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

What would Americans say about the best leadership on climate change

According to the Washington Post poll [ Poll ], Mr. Bush now enjoys his lowest level of support in the last five years.  Although his current rating of 33-64 has been matched -- earlier there were more strong supporters and fewer strong opponents.   Americans are not impressed with Congress and regard it as not accomplishing much, but they tend to blame Bush and the Republicans, not the Democrats.  Americans regard the Democrats as better able to handle the war, health care, the economy, and the deficit than the Republicans. [On a related note, the WSJ reports that even Republicans are starting to doubt the benefits of free trade to the US economy].

At the same time, Clinton (Hilary that is) is in ascendance.  For Democrats, she is increasingly regarded as the strongest leader, more honest and trustworthy, and most inspiring candidate as well as most likely to be elected and best representing core Democratic values . 

So, where's Hilary on climate change?  [I was going to add "and other environmental issues" but frankly this is not only the most crucial environmental issue, it is a good bellweather of how a candidate will address other issues].

While Clinton's climate change position is not particularly daring (she favors renewable energy, clean coal / carbon sequestration, and the McCain-Lieberman bill), I am fond of her for her willingness to give Michael Crichton a hard time when he was called last Congress as a climate change science witness (I guess he was the best that Inhofe could do).  See reports below.


But even if Bill is the albatross around Hilary's neck in some respects, his work on climate change suggests that she will be a far stronger leader on climate change than her current position statements suggest.  As Bryan Walsh's article in Time on Saturday indicated, Bill's Global Climate  Initiative, launched in August 2006, has brought business and philanthropy together to fund local efforts to reduce energy use and carbon emissions. As Walsh noted:

While UN action on climate change remains stalled by the deadlock   between the developed and the developing world, Clinton has proved   remarkably successful in fostering real engagement and investment             on global warming across national lines. "Clinton just really gets it            (EMPHASIS ADDED BY ENVIRONMENTAL LAW PROF)," says Ted Nordhaus,    co-author of the new environmental politics book Break Through.The success of the Clinton Initiative is emblematic of how people who care about climate change in America have chosen to approach the problem in the near total absence of action from Washington. Lobbying has shifted to the corporate world, where large companies like Wal-Mart have implemented energy efficiency polices far more aggressive than anything coming from the government. High-profile celebrities like Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio have made green cool for consumers. And hardly a day goes by without news of a leap forward on solar, wind or hybrid cars, thanks to private investment — again, in the absence of significant government spending.  Time - Walsh article


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October 4, 2007 in Climate Change, Economics, Energy, Governance/Management, Legislation, South America, US | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

President Bush on Climate Change: He Still Doesn't Get It

I listened as casual acquaintances approached me last week and made fun on Bush's "leadership" on climate change: voluntary measures, soft "aspirational" goals, and R&D money for technology.  Yawn.....  And Rice has the audacity to say that the US is ready to assume world leadership on climate change....what universe does she live in???
Here's the world view from Worldwatch:

Reflections on Climate Week and The Path Forward   

By Janet L. Sawin       

Created Oct 2 2007 - 12:25pm   
Last week’s climate talks started with a bang and ended with a thud. A clear message emerged from the UN summit on climate change [1] early in the week—now is the time to act. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, citing widespread calls for immediate and urgent action, stated [2] that the meeting of more than 80 heads of states “succeeded beyond our expectations.” In sharp contrast, the week ended with a less-than-inspiring gathering of major greenhouse gas emitters in Washington, where President George W. Bush wasted a golden opportunity to move the process forward and propel the United States into a leadership role on climate change. While the President’s rhetoric [3] about the problem has evolved, his understanding of the urgency of climate change and the form and scale of the response required clearly have not changed.    

Policies that Promote Solutions, Not Problems   

Experience has demonstrated that voluntary measures and “aspirational” goals do not work; mandatory and binding commitments will be required to reduce emissions in time to avoid warming of more than 2 degrees Celsius and catastrophic climate change. It is critical to establish short- and long-term limits on global emissions and national caps that put the world on the path toward 50-percent reductions by mid-century.   

The technologies required for starting down this path are available now. Renewable energy and energy efficiency options are ready to be scaled up today and can meet rising needs for energy services while reducing global emissions.[1] [3] Although research and development funding for advanced technologies is important and can help in the longer-term, it is even more critical to establish frameworks and policies that promote solutions that can begin immediately to reduce the world’s emissions. Key among these are mandatory emissions targets that help to create markets by putting a price on carbon.   

The climate problem will not be solved one smokestack at a time. Rather, the challenge is to create a new energy system that will not only protect the climate but will be economically superior to the one in place today. The European Union is already moving ahead in this direction, with significant commitments for emissions reductions and parallel increases in renewable energy and efficiency. What’s driving this shift? EU leaders see it not only as necessary for reducing the threat of climate change, but also as “an investment in [Europe’s] economic future.”[2] [3] If saving the climate becomes a race for who dominates one of the fastest growing sectors of the 21st-century economy, recalcitrance and delay will no longer be viewed by climate negotiators as the keys to “success.”

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October 4, 2007 in Climate Change | Permalink | TrackBack (0)